Tweet, tweet, tweet… choke.
Last October, when I finally and OH so reluctantly joined the ranks on Facebook and Twitter, I wrote a post titled ‘Evolution of a Twit’. There I outlined that my capitulation was entirely due to the need to create an author’s platform for my forthcoming book. These days, publishers want an author to have not just a ‘platform’ (such as a blog, podcast, YouTube videos, or a website with a significant amount of ‘hits’ daily) but also a social media following. For a new author searching for a publisher—or even self-published and looking to sell his books—a viable platform and social media following are now essential.
While I generally find the social media wave to be distressingly superficial, I concede that its ￼power to promote is unrivaled. In my October SAJ entry, I also wrote that despite my resistance, I believed that there were people of high consciousness among the untold millions of users of Facebook and Twitter. The progressive, Cultural Creatives, ‘evolutionary’, and spiritual sort were the ones I was after, because they are the ones potentially most interested in my book, podcasts, and blog. I still hold true to that.
It’s also true that I have stumbled across some lovely little gems in people’s posts, yet the Facebook/Twitter/Linked-in/Google+/YouTube world seems mostly like a distracting void where one can simply waste an incredible amount of time and gain little in return.
Still, I’m plodding along… tweet, tweet. (insert heavy sigh here)
My brilliant ‘Get Published’ coach, Robin Hoffman, instructs her clients to spend an hour daily building their social network platform. It’s sort of like brushing my teeth: a little chore I have to do every day that hopefully pays dividends (whether keeping my teeth or gaining new followers). I somewhat grudgingly type multiple posts and ‘tweets’ each week, trying to make them more meaningful than simply, ‘Today I’m going to the beach’ or ‘I just uploaded a new photo to Facebook’ or whatever. Say something relevant about yourself, your work, or someone else’s work, please!
Over the past couple of months, I have slowly found myself spending most of my social media time on Twitter rather than Facebook, largely because I find the posts/tweets (generally) more relevant. Initially, I had my Twitter posts linked to my Facebook page but this seemed redundant, and I decided that not everyone on FB who ‘likes’ LR Heartsong wanted to receive daily ‘tweets’. If they do, I figure that they can sign on to Twitter and follow me there.
On Twitter, ‘following’ others is one of the prime ways people discover you: your profile shows up on their ‘Followers’ list, where other Twitter users will see your profile and posts (‘tweets’), and hopefully begin ‘following’ you. So if I browse through the ‘followers’ of someone I find interesting—say, a socially conscious and aware individual looking to make a difference in the world—I’m likely to discover the same sort of people (or ones who have similar interests) and I could ‘follow’ them, too. Perhaps they’ll even ‘follow’ me.
Thus, in addition to posting a daily (hopefully meaningful) ‘tweet’, I also spend a bit of time browsing for other interesting people to ‘follow’… but my already limited enthusiasm for this endeavor is waning.
There seems to be a predominant mindset of, “If I follow you, then you should follow me”. I have even seen comments on profiles like, “People who don’t follow in return will be UN-followed!” I do understand that there is sort of a mutual favor involved here, a kind of ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ sort of thing, because ‘following’ each other raises both individual’s numbers. Frankly, I don’t subscribe to this sort of tribal mentality or low-consciousness worldview.
I have looked at the profile and/or website of every person who is ‘following’ me. There is a good handful of people that I simply have no connection with; I cannot relate to their worldview (as espoused in their profile and tweets), and/or they seem to be saying absolutely nothing of value. I’m often puzzled why they would be following me. One cannot fathom the Mystery. I’ll ‘follow’ you in return IF I think there is something interesting about your profile or if I’m in alignment with what you’re saying/promoting… but not simply an auto-reflex ‘follow’ to gain more numbers.
Around the Winter Solstice in December, I received an email from a woman thanking me for ‘following’ her on Twitter. She had taken the time to visit my website, read some of my words, decided that we were doing similar work, and then emailed me though my ‘Contact’ link (via my website, not simply a message on Twitter) that she would ‘follow’ in return. How refreshing… and unusual. Visiting her website (where I discovered that she had a blog, one that I now subscribe to), I wrote back to her, thanking her for the time and effort she put forth.
One of the arguments for gaining a large following is that at least a small percentage of them will actually relate to what you have to say. The bulk of the others are apparently simply following you for… well, different reasons, I guess. It’s sort of a ‘cast your net as wide as you can, and you’ll catch a few good fish among all the other flotsam and jetsam that has to be thrown back or discarded’. I have to admit, this is not my general approach to life and, personally, I don’t think the numbers really add up to much that is tangible or real. I may have a thousand people ‘following’ me (HA! I’ve got a long way to go to get there), but it doesn’t mean that any of them are actually going to buy my book (or listen to my podcast, subscribe to my blog, etc).
Another argument of Twitter advocates is that if you have a large following, you’re reaching a large number of people with your message. Again, I’m not convinced. If you’re ‘following’ more than about a hundred people or organizations on Twitter, you are already receiving so many ‘tweets’ every time you sign on, you can never really read or follow them all. Even as you scroll down the list to read and explore links, more posts are constantly pouring in. Most people are ‘following’ hundreds or thousands of others. Really, what’s the point (unless you’re simply going to spend all day on Twitter, that is)…? True, you can ‘favorite’ certain people or place them on a ‘watch closely’ list so that their ‘tweets’ are highlighted or easier to locate, but most people are simply following to increase their own numbers.
Honestly, I find the whole thing a bit odd… like a very warped popularity contest. It’s somewhat like Facebook when people you don’t even know want to be ‘friends’. No, thanks.
I observe new ‘likes’ appear on my Facebook page or new ‘followers’ slowly clock up on Twitter but I can’t help but wonder what I’m actually achieving. Do they even read my posts? I certainly don’t read most of the posts of people that I ‘follow’ or ‘like’.
Yet thanks to the somewhat spooky, ‘Big Brother’ insights of Google Analytics on my website, I can see that traffic is steadily increasing; more people are ‘clicking through’ to read the Soul Artist Journal or listen to the Riverspeak podcast. Modest as it is, the time that I invest on social media seems to be paying off. Perhaps by the day that my book finally comes out (the work of splitting the larger, original manuscript into two smaller ones seems to be an interminable process), this venture of building an ‘author’s platform’ will actually sell some copies. That would be lovely.
I look for the good in everything and I don’t mean to sound like a naysayer. Certainly, I have been gifted some sparkling jewels in people’s ‘tweets’, links, ‘retweets’, and whatnot, and I’ve discovered individuals, organizations, and causes that I would not have stumbled across were I not on Twitter. We do not grow spiritually or evolve in a vacuum; we are influenced by new ideas, inspirations, teachers, and stories. Yet because social media cuts across all levels, spirals, and stages of our collective consciousness, there is a continual process of separating the nourishing grains from the chaff.
We each have something vital and original to offer to the world, and discovering that treasure is a key part of life’s journey. If we positively impact just one person’s life in the process of discovering our gift and offering it forward, then we have been a success. Hopefully, we will affect many as we contribute to and conspire with a collective evolution of consciousness.
I’d be highly surprised if anything I write or say ever goes ‘viral’, but I’m still hoping that the power of social media will allow me to tap a greater audience. When it finally appears in print, I’d like to reach thousands with The Bones and Breath, not simply for financial reasons but because it is my unique offering to the Great Turning/Great Work at hand.
The social entrepreneurs, new visionaries, catalysts of change, and Soul Artists are using social media for their work, tweeting away as they bare their brave hearts. I will continue to join them, going forward with my ‘tweets’ and posts, casting the net wide and hoping that at least a few of those ‘followers’ are actually interested in what I have to say… all the while trusting that this odd phenomenon of Facebook and Twitter will make a positive difference in the end.
Dwell in possibility, that’s my New Year’s resolution… and I’m still sticking to it.